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Bucs place Polanco on IL; Owen recalled

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Already thin in the outfield, the Pirates will need to play the next nine days without their starting right fielder, as Gregory Polanco was placed on the injured list prior to Tuesday’s game in San Diego.

No word was given as to the type of injury or illness Polanco was suffering from.

“He’s on the IL,” manager Derek Shelton was quoted as telling “That’s all we’ve got.”

Hunter Owen, an infielder/outfielder who is in his sixth year in the Pirates organization, was added to the Major League roster to replace Polanco. Owen had been on the taxi squad for the current road trip.

The 29-year-old Polanco has struggled mightily since undergoing surgery after a horrific sliding injury late in 2018. He was limited to 42 games in 2019 and hit just .242, and last year he nosedived to a .153 average and a .539 OPS in 157 at-bats.

This year, Polanco is hitting .200 with three doubles, three home runs and five RBIs in 80 at-bats. His absence left the Pirates with a starting outfield of alignment Tuesday night of Ka’ai Tom in left, Bryan Reynolds in center and Phillip Evans in right.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Owen was a 25th-round pick in the 2016 draft from Indiana State. He has played first base, third base and the outfield during his minor league career and is on a major league roster for the first time.

Owen did see time with the big league club in spring training this year. There, he had three hits in 17 at-bats with a home run and two walks.

Owen was not with the Pirates’ satellite group in 2020, so his most recent competition came in 2019 when he split time between the Bucs’ Double-A Altoona club and Triple-A Indianapolis.

He fared much better against Double-A pitching, hitting .295 with a .935 OPS. In 237 at-bats, Owen slugged 15 home runs and 15 doubles and drove in 44.

At Indianapolis, Owen hit just .192 with a .622 OPS in 120 at-bats.

For his minor league career, Owen has compiled a .266 batting average and an .814 OPS in 1,258 at-bats.

MINOR MATTERS: The Pirates saw several prospects shine during Tuesday’s minor league Opening Day contests. Travis Swaggerty, the club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2018, made his Triple-A debut a memorable one as he had three hits, including a home run to lead off the game. On the mound, Chase De Jong started and threw five no-hit innings before yielding a hit in the sixth. He struck out 10 and made it through six scoreless innings.

Roansy Contreras, obtained from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade, sparkled in his debut for Double-A Altoona, striking out a career-high 11 batters in five scoreless innings. He gave up five hits and did not walk a batter. Altoona was quiet offensively as shortstop prospect Oneil Cruz had two of the club’s five hits and scored the only run in a 2-1 loss to Bowie.

At High-A Greensboro, Quinn Priester – the club’s top pitching prospect – scuffled in a 7-5 loss to Hickory. Priester, the Pirates’ No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, surrendered four hits and three earned runs while walking two and striking out three in three innings. Shortstop Liover Peguero clubbed a three-run homer and center fielder Matt Gorski – taken No. 2 in the 2019 draft — added a two-run shot.

At Low-A Bradenton, third baseman Alexander Mojica hit a two-run homer and catching prospect Endy Rodriguez had two hits and drove in a run a 6-3 loss to Fort Meyers.